In 1997, Tony Fontana pitched, to HBO, the idea of an hour long drama set in a minimum-security prison. The name for this series was to be “Club Med.” HBO decided to green light the project, but something changed during the process, it was decided that it would be in a maximum-security prison instead. The main characters would not be in for white-collar crimes, but for murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. The name of the show was changed to “Oz.”
This unlikely show was the first one-hour drama on HBO and ran for 6 critically acclaimed years. In 2003, they finally closed wrapped for the final time. Oz features an amazing cast filled with faces that would be familiar to many TV viewers. More than one of these inmates has been on the other side of the law on shows such as the Law & Order franchise as well as Third Watch.
The challenge of writing a show about prison is great. For starters, you have to draw the viewers in when you have very few sympathetic characters. You can only so many characters that A) were wrongly imprisoned or B) Have seen the light and have become beacons of humanity.
Season six is the final one and goes out with power and force. Not everyone gets what they deserve (good or bad) but the end of Oz is consistent with the realism that made it one of the finest shows on television. The one issue I do have is that at times, it feels as though they were rushed to wrap things up. Some of the characters are written off rather abruptly, I wonder if they had been wanting a seventh season and were forced to move faster than originally planned to the series conclusion? Dispute this problem, the show is still worth watching. One has to applaud their decision to keep the end faithful to the grittiness that was the show’s trademark. It would have been so easy to wrap things up with a happy, feel-good ending.
This collection contains a few audio tracks featuring Series creator Tony Fontana, as well as several actors. These commentaries are fairly low key and certainly add some fascinating insight into the production of the show, as well as how some of the cast and crew felt about saying goodbye to the characters and show that they had put so much time into.
There is also an extended version of the series finale, but the extra footage is rough, noticeably so. This is too bad because the extra scenes are quite interesting.